Grammar Basics – The Comma – a Definition and RECAP

As we are wrapping up our discussion of the comma, it’s a good time to define the comma and look at the most common usages of it.

A Comma is a punctuation mark. (,)

Commas can be found in:

  • Lists,
  • separate clauses,
  • direct speech,
  • to mark off parts of a sentence,
  • with however,
  • to separate adjectives,
  • and finally, to distinguish a name from the rest of the sentence.

Using a comma in a List:

For Example:

They bought books, pens, staples, and erasers.

(This is where the Oxford Comma comes in. I blogged about it earlier. When the last comma in the series is placed before ‘and’ or ‘or,’ it is known as the Oxford Comma.)

Using the Oxford comma helps you avoid misunderstandings, as illustrated in the following:)

For Example:

My favorite burgers are bacon, cheddar and mushroom and swiss cheese.

Without the final comma, ‘the Oxford,’ in this sentence, the hamburgers could be either mushroom and swiss cheese burgers, or cheddar and swiss cheese.

“There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and those who don’t, and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.” ~Lynne Truss

Regardless of which camp you fall in, either sentence is correct. It appears to me that the Oxford comma makes your meaning understood.

Using a comma to Separate clauses:

 Commas indicate where one phrase or clause ends, and another begins.

  • Use them where two independent clauses (sentences that are complete and make sense on their own) are joined by conjunctions like ‘and,’ ‘or,’ and ‘but.’

For Example:

I walked to the shops, and I took the bus home.

  • Use them after a relative clause, which is a clause beginning with ‘who,’ ‘which,’ ‘that,’ ‘whom,’ or ‘where.’

For Example:

Authors, who write every day, create a daily habit.

  • Use them when you start a sentence with a subordinate or dependent clause. This type of clause does not express a complete thought. It is not a complete sentence.

For Example:

After we changed the place for the conference, we went home.

  • Use them after introductory words or phrases.

For Example:

Once again, I was sent home for my bad behavior.

Using a comma in Direct Speech:

Use them to quote somebody’s words exactly as they are said or spoken.

For Example:

Johnny answered, ‘I think we have a problem.’


‘No, you’re wrong,’ she said.

Using a comma to Mark Off certain parts of a sentence:

Use the comma to add information that could be inserted in brackets or between dashes. This information is NOT essential to the main sentence to make sense.

For Example:

His latest novel, The Institute, was another bestseller.

Using a comma with However:

Use commas before and after words like ‘however’ and ‘nevertheless.’

For Example:

However, she was still late for the bus.

  • TIP: Don’t use a comma after ‘however’ when it means ‘in whatever way.’

For Example:

However hard she tried; she couldn’t make the cut.

Using a comma to Separate Adjectives:

We need commas if the adjectives are each separate description for an object or person.

For Example:

Sarah’s gorgeous, uppity, devious partner

So, while NOT needing commas to separate all adjectives, we merely need them in the case when the adjectives are part of the same object of the sentence.

For Example:

Lydia’s white cotton blouse

And, finally, using the comma to distinguish a Name from the rest of the sentence:

When you are addressing a person directly, the use of commas will set off their titles, names, or terms of endearment.

For Example:

George, did you sell the farm?

Oh, honey, of course, I will.

Good morning, Colonel.

So, there you have it. I hope you found these short lessons on comma usage to be useful to you and your writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

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